Alternatives to Photoshop: GIMP, PhotoScape, Lightbox Free, & Paint.NET

4 Free Programmes for Editing Your Photos

Extensive photo editing capabilities don’t have to be expensive. Even if Photoshop continues to be the most popular photo-editing software out there, there are some very good alternatives available. We’ll introduce you to four alternative photo-editing programmes that are just as good as Photoshop and are completely free of charge.

GIMP

A very popular programme amongst free photo-editing software is the open-source programme GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). This software offers both beginners and demanding photographers alike the most important tools necessary for professional photo editing. Besides the normal functions offered by all photo-editing software such as various filters for colour matching and the ability to rotate and crop images, GIMP also has a “magic scissors” tool that allows you to cut out or retain individual elements in the photo. Thanks to the programme’s single-window mode, the software is accessible even for beginners. In just a few steps you can adjust colour and contrast, make the background blurrier, and reduce image noise. Also, thanks to countless available plug-ins, the programme can be expanded to your heart’s content. Popular GIMP plug-ins are “Watermark,” which allows the user to add a watermark to digital photos, or “Shadows and Highlights,” which makes it possible to adjust the shadows and lighting.

PhotoScape

PhotoScape is most suitable for beginners and amateur photographers since it offers a wide variety of possibilities to edit photos as well as the ability to manage and view them. This photo-editing software is also very easy to use. Standard functions such as cropping, brightness adjustment, and soft-focus effects are included with PhotoScape as well as the ability to insert objects into your digital photos. There are several highlights of this programme. One is the GIF-animator, which allows you to create small GIF’s from several digital photos in the blink of an eye. Another highlight is that this programme makes it possible to easily create a poster or collage from a collection of photos. Furthermore, this all-round programme has a RAW-converter which makes it possible to convert RAW files into JPEG’s. Besides offering a quick overview of all your digital photos and the ability to edit and optimise them with easy-to-use tools, this programme also offers a variety of extra features that will enable you to creatively edit your photos.

Editing Photos with Free Software

Lightbox Free

Lightbox Free is best suited for quick and easy photo editing, whether it’s removing red-eye, cropping, or just simple colour adjustments. Besides the standard functions, this programme also comes with other special tools for editing your photos, such as removing colour faults, brightening shadows, or adjusting the contrast. It’s also possible to edit RAW files using this software. Thanks to the programme’s simplicity, this free photo-editing software is especially well suited for beginners.

Paint.NET

Paint.NET can also be described as a good all-round photo-editing programme since this free software is easier to use than Photoshop, but still offers a multitude of functions. This programme was developed by Washington State University in cooperation with Microsoft and was initially developed as a replacement of the tried and tested programme MS Paint. However, this programme is capable of much more than its predecessor and especially stands out due to its overall user friendliness. Besides the functions available from any standard photo-editing software like cropping, colour correction, or brightness and contrast adjustment, this free programme also comes with various tools that users of Photoshop will already be familiar with such as lasso, paintbrush, or magic wand. This programme also comes with an editor that supports layers, blending, and transparency. Thanks to numerous plug-ins, this free software can also easily be expanded. With the “PSD Plug-in,” for instance, users can even load and save Photoshop .PSD files.

Tips for Crafting Your Own Picture Frames

Perfectly accentuate your photos in completely individualised picture frames. We’ve gathered together some ideas how you can create self-made picture frames with simple means. You won’t need your own workshop to implement these DIY ideas. With a little skill and the right materials, you’ll be able to wow people with your self-made works of art.

Lace and Fabric – Wonderfully Playful

A picture frame crafted with lace, buttons, and even a self-sewn cuddly toy

For this DIY picture frame idea, you can buy a completely normal picture frame that isn’t too large in size or you can add some pizazz to an older picture frame you have lying around the house. Suitable formats for this idea are from 10×15 cm to 20×30 cm. You’ll also need some other materials like lace, fabric, buttons, as well as superglue or a hot glue gun. Materials like printed floral paper or shells also work nicely.

Pay attention to the colour coordination of your materials and take into consideration what kind of photo you want to display in your DIY picture frame. You can buy lace in many different colours and widths. It’s best to use a basic tone and choose the colours of your other craft materials accordingly. Pastel shades work especially well for baby photos. You can also choose a colour that is more eye-catching or romantic, for instance neon or red tones. Let your imagination know no bounds.

If you choose to use paper and lace, it’s best to first glue the paper to the picture frame. You can then place the lace on top of it in a protruding fashion. Then, you can add other decorative elements like buttons, shells, etc. When you’re finished, you can give your beautiful picture frame away as a gift or use it to beautify your own home.

The Picture Blackboard

A small blackboard with a wooden frame hanging on a rustic door

An idea that is somewhat different from the rest is the self-made blackboard. First, search for a nice picture frame in a format of your choice. Smaller formats are more suitable for being displayed on something like a table while larger formats are better for hanging on the wall. Replace the glass pane of the picture frame with a thin wooden panel. You can get one cut out to your specifications at your local home improvement store if need be. Then, coat this in blackboard paint. After that, place the dried wooden panel in the frame and secure it from behind with small nails or with the picture frame’s clamps. You can then take your self-made blackboard and add your own photos or other decorations and also write your own messages with a piece of chalk.

Add a Touch of Nature with Twigs and Shells

Decorate your self-made picture frame with materials from Mother Nature

You can also create a beautiful self-made picture frame using materials like twigs, shells, dried rowan berries, miniature pine cones, and other dry materials from nature. For this DIY idea, you’ll also need some thin wire, a hot glue gun, and a simple picture frame with smooth borders. You can also use a picture frame with larger dimensions, but be careful not to overburden the frame with too many decorative elements.

You’ll first need to bind together the twigs in the appropriate length and width with wire and then affix these to the frame with the help of the hot glue gun. You can then attach the berries, pine cones, shells, or other natural elements to the twigs with either wire or glue. You can use various natural materials depending on personal taste and the current season.

These natural picture frames are perfect for displaying photos that have black and white or sepia tones. Landscape photos also go very well together with this picture frame created with natural materials.

The Driftwood Picture Frame

A picture frame crafted from old wood

You can also make a one-of-a-kind picture frame from driftwood you’ve collected at the beach or just from other wooden materials that are lying around the house. For this idea, you will need some more equipment and a bit of craftsmanship, but the end result is worth the effort. You’ll need a decent saw, mitre box, sand paper, and wood glue.

You’ll need to either use pieces of wood that are the correct dimensions or cut larger pieces down to size. After that, you’ll need to mitre, sand, and assemble them. You can decide for yourself if you’d like to display your photo with or without a glass plate in the picture frame. Most local glaziers can create individualised glass plates that will fit your one-of-a-kind frame.

You can find a detailed construction manual for building your own picture frame here: http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Picture-Frame

A Vintage Look

A vintage picture frame

If you’re a fan of the vintage look, it’s relatively easy and uncomplicated to transform a simple wooden picture frame into something completely different. All you’ll need is some white acrylic paint or crackle glaze / finish (this will produce a cracking effect in the paint) and some sandpaper. First you’ll need to sand the wood with the sandpaper. Then you need to paint the wood with at least two coats of white paint and let each layer dry separately. You can do this purposefully unevenly and even let the brushstrokes show until you finally have your desired effect. After that you can make small nicks in the paint with a tool like a screwdriver or even a simple pair of scissors. Finally, all you have to do is sand everything a bit with your sandpaper (especially on the corners and edges). Now you have your own vintage picture frame ready to hang on the wall. Don’t forget to add a photo that also enhances the vintage theme!

Miniature Picture Frames for Miniature Photos

A square picture frame with four colours and two red and white hearts made out of wood

You can create your own miniature picture frames for your smaller photos. Cut out four strips of wood in the same length (from 10 – 15 cm) depending on how large your photo is. Then sand them down with sandpaper and add some colourful paint. Arrange the four strips into a square and glue them together. Let the glue dry and you can already add a photo to your self-made picture frame. This DIY picture frame also functions well without a glass plate or back. With the help of a small hook you can display your brilliant picture frame on the wall.

Tasty culinary creations are best accentuated on camera when they’re perfectly arranged and are photographed in front of a suitable background

5 Ground Rules for Taking Photos of Your Food

Skilfully photographing foodstuffs and other dishes can present a bit of a challenge. Regardless if you’re using a smartphone to take a picture to upload on Instagram, using a digital SLR camera to shoot nice photos for your blog, or if you’re taking pictures to create your own photo cook book, we’ll give you five practical tips to help you perfectly capture your food on camera.

Lighting

The best-looking photos are usually taken in natural daylight. That’s why it’s usually a good idea to try to take your pictures during the day if possible. Taking photos in front of a window, on the balcony, or even in the garden will give your pictures a natural and appealing look. Ensure that the sun is not shining directly on your motif and that there are no disruptive shadows in the photo. If it’s not possible to photograph in daylight, make sure that you have enough lighting. A lamp or light bulb that puts off cool light will serve this purpose nicely. This will provide a good natural light without too much yellowness. In order to avoid strong shadows, it’s ideal to make use of two lamps. You can use one lamp to light the motif from the left side and the other from the right. If you don’t happen to have two lamps at hand, you can alternatively use a white sheet of paper as a reflector to avoid having shadows appear in your photo.

Food photography is all the rage and will be sure to inspire you to come up with some creative concoctions in the kitchen

 

Arrangement and colour selection

The basic requirement for a good picture of your dish is the arrangement of the food. Make sure that the plate doesn’t appear to be overcrowded and try to photograph smaller portions when possible. Try not to put too many side dishes on the plate or a piece of meat that is much too large. Cut larger pieces in half and place them on top of other pieces. Even if you’re a sauce-lover, use them and other fluid / creamy consistencies sparingly. You can purposefully decorate the plate with little dabs of sauce in free spaces or drizzle it on the side dishes. Not only the arrangement, but also the colour selection of the dish is crucial when photographing food. It’s a good idea to photograph dishes with contrasting colours. Red pomegranates or onions produce a nice contrast against a green salad. The food in the photo will then appear to be much more delectable and appetising. Even foods that are unappealing to the eye and dishes with a single colour can be “spiced up” by adding fresh herbs, berries, or grated chocolate.

Vantage point and image detail

With various dishes come various possibilities of photographing them. Just by altering the vantage point and image detail, you can photograph the same motif in a multitude of ways. There’s no such thing as an optimal camera angle in this case. Every photo is different and while using a bird’s eye view might be the right choice for photographing a certain dish, this perspective could make other foods appear boring and less dynamic. There are, of course, several things you should keep in mind when selecting the right angle from which to photograph your food. You should always photograph fluids (like a filled wine glass or bottle) straight on. Orient yourself along a horizontal or vertical line. The same holds true when photographing foods with liquids. This will make your photo appear more natural. Try out several different vantage points; even just a few degrees difference in the angle can be enough to lend that special something to your photo. Besides the angle, the image detail is also very important to take into consideration. You should keep the rule of thirds in mind. When adhering to this rule, you shouldn’t place the main motif in the middle of the photo, but instead slightly offset from the centre. Divide the photo up into three equal parts and place the motif on one of the lines. This will make the photo appear more well-balanced.

Tasty culinary creations are best accentuated on camera when they’re perfectly arranged and are photographed in front of a suitable background

Dinnerware, background, and decoration

To enhance the character of you food, you should think about suitable dinnerware, decoration, as well as an appealing background. Generally, foods displayed on simple dinnerware are better accentuated. Depending on the desired mood of the image, however, you could also use dinnerware that is more colourful and eye-catching. It’s important to keep in mind, however, that the colour(s) of the dinnerware don’t take too much attention from the food.

Besides using suitable dinnerware, the selection of the background is also important. Natural materials like a large wooden cutting board or a wooden table top are especially well suited for photographing hearty dishes. For finer dishes, a slate slab could do the trick. Asian dishes, on the other hand, can be accentuated with something like a bamboo mat. For those of you who don’t have a suitable table to photograph on, you can pick up some things from your local home improvement store to create your own background. In the blink of an eye, you can transform cardboard, plywood, or tiles into wonderful backgrounds to fit the desired mood of your photo for different dishes. You can also use leftover wallpaper, tablecloths, or single-colour construction paper.

To successfully photograph your dish, you should also keep suitable decorations in mind. When choosing fitting decorations, you should make sure that they not only visually, but also thematically, fit the food. Raw ingredients like fresh tomatoes, herbs, spices, or used kitchen utensils work best in order to accentuate the mood of the photo. Make sure that your photo doesn’t become overburdened, however. The focus should always be on the dish.

Dishes, colours, and the background all affect the overall mood in food photography

Pay attention to details

After you’ve arranged your food, ensured good lightening, and accentuated your dish with suitable decoration, it’s time to pay attention to the details. Look at the image preview and make sure that the background, dinnerware, and cutlery are clean. Also pay attention to what’s happening in the background away from the table. Are there dirty clothes lying in the corner or toys that need to be put away?

Automatic Exposure

Unlike analogue cameras, modern SLR cameras have an automatic exposure. This automatic exposure control works by interlinking the aperture and shutter, which both significantly influence light intensity as well as exposure time. Both of these elements produce the exposure of a photo. In other words, the exposure is the product of light intensity and exposure time (Exposure = Light Intensity x Exposure Time).

While analogue photography allows for the manual adjustment of aperture and shutter, digital photography grants you the option of using an automatic exposure. This automatic setting is especially designed for users who just want to point and shoot without having to put too much thought into the exposure measurements of their camera. There are three basic types of settings:

Automatic aperture

On the mode selector: S/Tv (short for Shutter priority / Time value)
The shutter speed is pre-selected and the aperture will automatically be adjusted

When using an automatic aperture control, which is also called shutter priority, the photographer has to pre-select the exposure time. The camera’s integrated exposure meter then adjusts the opening of the aperture accordingly. The shutter priority is often used to influence the dynamics and sharpness of a photo. On most mode selectors, this mode is displayed as S or Tv.

Aperture priority

On the mode selector: A/Av (short for Aperture priority / Aperture value)’
The aperture is pre-selected and the shutter speed will automatically be adjusted

This mode allows the photographer to select a specific aperture value; the camera is then responsible for using a suitable shutter speed, which ensures proper exposure.

The aperture has an effect on both exposure time and depth of field. In portrait photography, people are especially emphasized when the background appears blurry. To create this effect, the f-number should be relatively low (e.g. 1.4 or 2.0) to ensure that the aperture area is as open as possible. The f-number is a relative value that results from dividing the focal length by the diameter of the entrance pupil.

When photographing landscapes, you should choose a higher f-number (e.g. 16 or 22) to make the larger area appear as sharp as possible. The opening of the aperture is then relatively small.

Program mode

On the mode selector: P
The aperture and shutter speed are both automatically adjusted by the camera

This popular mode is mostly used for taking pictures when there is not too much time available for adjusting the camera settings. Depending on the amount of light detected, the camera automatically adjusts the exposure time and the aperture accordingly. Depending on the model of your camera, the way its program mode operates can be quite different from that of other models. The provided handbook that came with your camera can give you more information specific to your camera model.

Amateur and professional photographers versed in the technical aspects of their cameras like to stick to using the manual mode (displayed as M on the mode selector) since it allows them to avoid problems that can come about when using automatic exposure. When using automatic exposure, it can be difficult to take reproducible photos since it’s possible that the camera will not automatically use the same settings twice in a row or the white balance could be different. This can be observed when looking at wedding photos of the bride and groom. Depending on the illumination perceived by the camera, the groom’s black suit can appear to be dark grey (if the black value is too light) while the bride’s dress can also appear grey if the white value is too dark.

File Formats

File formats define the syntax, that is to say the inner structure, of data. Depending on the intended applications, there are various available file formats for photos. While some formats are mostly used for exchanging photos, other formats are optimised for further editing. Thanks to Exif data, additional information can also be added to the files.

JPEG

JPEG is an acronym for “Joint Photographic Experts Group” and labels the most popular file format for pictures. Thanks to its methods of compression and coding, JPEG files are capable of storing high-quality photos even with a limited amount of storage space. JPEG covers a colour space of 16.7 million colours and is supported by almost all popular applications and cameras. The JPEG format is especially well suited for pictures with flowing and smooth transitions.

TIFF

The “Tagged Image File Format” (TIFF) was originally developed for saving scanned raster graphics. In addition to PDF and EPS, it’s a common file format for the exchange of data in prepress. Contrary to the JPEG format, TIFF supports CMYK profiles, which are used in printing. Thanks to its high colour depth, TIFF files are often used for the loss-free exchange of pictures. Due to their very high quality, pictures that are saved as a TIFF file are considerably larger in size.

RAW

The raw data from a camera is labelled as a RAW file. Different file-endings are used depending on the manufacturer. Even though almost every camera is capable of providing raw data, a universal standard has yet to be established. The benefit of saving pictures as RAW files is that there is no loss of quality or colour space. Special software makes it possible to edit the photos later. This makes it possible to make corrections in the areas of definition, tonal values, saturation, and white balance. Since RAW files are not compressed, the file sizes tend to be considerably large.

Exif Data

The “Exchangeable Image File Format” (Exif) is a standard format for saving metadata with digital photos. These data are displayed in the header of the photo’s file and can contain information about the picture itself as well as the hardware used. Typical Exif entries are the date and time the picture was taken, orientation, focal length, exposure time, and ISO-value. Professionals often also add information about the creator of the photo as well as copyright. Compressed JPEG files as well as non-compressed TIFF and RAW photos support Exif data.

Picture Sharpness

In photography, the sharpness distinguishes and showcases the details in your picture. The quality of photos is often measured by their sharpness and achieving a high level of sharpness is one of the most important goals in the technical implementation of photography. There is a difference to keep in mind between the technical picture sharpness and the subjective sharpness perceived by the viewer. Much significance is often attached to the latter since the impression of sharpness transports the artistic statement of the picture. Influencing factors such as surrounding conditions, technique, and the motif play a deciding role, but the picture’s sharpness can also be improved after the fact with the utilisation of picture optimisation programs. A picture taken with quality sharpness from the onset is always better than a picture whose sharpness has been improved digitally after the fact.

A fundamental element of the subjective sharpness is the edge definition. Edges in photos are especially sharp when they are exhibited on strong contrasts in brightness or colour. A picture without a clear structure or edges will be regarded as fuzzy or out of focus by the viewer. Besides the brightness of a picture, the colour temperature, or colour balance, also plays an important role. The colour temperature is made up of different wavelengths of light and is therefore affected by the light source and the colour of all the surrounding areas. For example, a portrait taken in front of a red wall will have a red hue. The different light-absorbing and reflective surfaces that surround the object being photographed affect the intensity, colour temperature, and contrast in the picture. With image enhancement, you can also adjust these effects in the photo after the fact.

The picture definition also contributes to the sharpness of the photo and depends heavily on the available exposure techniques and the quality of the lens. Only when the sensor of the lens obtains detailed information can these details be depicted. On the other hand, you can also have a photo with a high resolution, but a small amount of details; this will also result in a limited perception of sharpness. High quality lenses in combination with top-notch cameras are capable of achieving high image performance. Normally this can be monitored by using a number of lines shown by the lens.

The ISO settings for the exposure time also influence the resolution as well as the perceived sharpness. High ISO values cause an overlap of the picture details through image noise and reduce the resolution. The exposure time can also have an influence on the field depth and blurred motion.

A spatial impression of the motif is conveyed to the viewer through the depth of focus. Important influential factors here are, for example, the focal width and distance. Through a larger focal width and a smaller distance from the photographed object, the depth of focus will be reduced.

Motion of the object being photographed can also cause blurring in the picture. When this is not caused by flawed focusing, shutter priority, or mistakes in other operational settings, this is labelled as motion blur. This is caused by perceivable movement in the motif during the exposure time. Blurring in the photo is often unwanted since it is frequently the result of unintentional shaking of the camera which results in the photo losing sharpness. In order to give the picture a bit of a special effect, sometimes motion blur will be purposefully used in sport photography.

Image Sensor

The central electronic component of a digital camera or camcorder is the image sensor. Together with the lens and the image processor, the image sensor is a deciding factor of the picture quality of a digital camera. The image sensor takes the place of a film negative of an analogue camera and consists of many millions of light-sensitive photodiodes that convert captured light photons into electrical signals. These photocells are arranged in matrix-like columns and rows on the area sensor. The image sensor then accumulates the individual image points as an electrical image, which is known as a pixel. The number of pixels a sensor can accumulate produces the picture’s resolution.

The choice of the sensor size depends mostly on your available budget as well as your personal requirements for picture quality and the quality of the motif you would like to photograph. The bigger the sensor is, the higher the luminosity and the more image information it is able to record. Larger sensors are thus capable of producing a high picture quality, but are at the same token expensive and require the use of a high-quality lens, which also does not come cheap. Also, the sensor has a considerable effect on the overall weight of the camera, which should be considered, for example, when traveling.

For compact cameras, mostly smaller image sensors are used, which are from 4.5 x 3.5 mm to 5.4 x 4 mm. Nowadays, camera manufacturers mostly use CMOS technology for these requirements. Most of the time, image sensors in interchangeable lens cameras, such as those offered by Olympus and Panasonic, are notably larger and support the use of market-dominant Four Thirds sensors starting from 17.3 x 13 mm. Canon, Samsung, and Sony, on the other hand, use the APS-C sensor, which is a bit bigger at 22.2 x 14.8 mm. Nikon is an exception and uses two non-standard formats: the CX format sensor, which measures 13.2 x 8.8 mm, and the DX format sensor, which measures 24 x 16 mm. The largest image sensor is the medium format, which measures 48 x 36 mm. Full frame sensors, coming in at 36 x 24 mm, are a bit smaller. Nikon refers to this format as FX format.

Along with the size of the sensor itself, the number and size of the photocells also play a role. These three parameters, along with the image noise and the photosensitivity, determine the image resolution and are therefore crucial for the quality of your pictures.

As a measurement of the image resolution, the number of pixels is given in megapixels (MP) and depends on the size of the image sensor and size of the pixels. Be careful not to mix up the actual number of pixels the camera can depict with the number of photocells. The bigger the pixel depicted is, the lower the image resolution will be. The number of pixels in image sensors is between 0.3 and 10 MP while professional digital cameras are capable of depicting tens of megapixels.

The sensor sensitivity is yet another parameter of image sensors. This is measured in ISO values. The bigger the image sensor is, the higher its light sensitivity, which decreases with a higher number of pixels. Between 50 and 200 ISO is the basic sensitivity of image sensors. This setting can be raised when needed in order to alter the exposure of the photocells.

Image Stabiliser

Methods to avoid camera shake in photography are known as image stabilisation. Free-hand photography of moving motifs or photographing without flash with little surrounding light usually leads to blurry photos. Image stabilisers help prevent such blurs and compensate for small movements of the photographer’s hands. This plays less of an important role in motion blurring; here, a shorter exposure time is a much more important factor.

There different kinds of stabilisers including optical, mechanical, and digital, though digital stabilisers are not as effective as the first two. Digital or optical image stabilisers are apart of the standard outfitting of many mid-range camera models.

An optical stabiliser is housed in the lens of the camera. Canon, Nikon, and Sigma are some examples of manufactures that offer lenses with built-in image stabilisers. These are capable of moving around in the lens of the camera and make it possible to view the stabilised photo through the viewfinder. Lenses with integrated image stabilisers are more expensive than those without them. However, with this technology, it is not necessary to buy a completely new camera as soon as lenses with new stabilising technology come to market.

Pentax and Olympus, on the other hand, produce a sensor-based image stabiliser that is located in the camera itself. The image stabilisation here is mechanical and results from the electromagnetic movement of the sensor when photographing, which ensures that the photograph stands still at the right moment. It can compensate for both horizontal and vertical movements as well as rotation on the image’s axis. An advantage of using a mechanical image stabiliser is that the mechanism functions independently of the lens and can thus be used without difficulty with older lenses or with lenses from other manufacturers. A downside with using a senor-based image stabiliser is, however, that you would have to buy a completely new camera to take advantage of further advancements in the technology down the road.

Digital stabilisers automatically raise the ISO sensitivity when photographing in order to reduce the necessary exposure time and thus reduce possible blurriness. As a result, however, the amount of image noise rises on single-colour areas due to disrupted pixels. This is the simplest form of image stabilisation and is thus found in almost every new digital camera. For producing especially high quality photos, however, digital image stabilisation is often not sufficient enough.

Purely mechanical image stabilisation can be achieved with the help of a tripod, gyro stabiliser, or camera stabiliser on which the camera can be propped up. The latter is primarily used to photograph moving objects in order to best stabilise a hand-held camera in motion.